Monthly Archives: April 2015

What’s in a Thought Bubble?

I helped launch an art project on Tuesday. Well, I don’t know if you’d call it art, exactly, but it does have a manifesto; that’s got to count for something, right? Anyway, this venture of dubious worth is called [THOUGHT BUBBLES], and it’s all about impulsive creative expression.  You might want to go check out our first post before reading any further. I promise you it won’t take more than two minutes of your time. Go on. I’ll wait. Welcome back! See? That didn’t take so long. As you can see, [THOUGHT BUBBLES] is all about brevity: we’ll be putting out videos of one minute (or shorter) in length once a week for as long as we can keep it up. There are certain other rules that apply – as seen in the aforementioned manifesto – but we can go into those another time, particularly as we’ll start breaking them pretty early on. But who is this “we”, you ask? Am I not the sole architect of the project, filming, composing and creating every atom of beauty that makes up the very being of [THOUGHT BUBBLES]? Of course not; don’t be ridiculous. I make up one third of a creative trio I am perpetually humbled to be a welcome part of. My fellow bubblenauts are none other than musician Alice Rowan and filmmaker Dave Beveridge. They’re both much more than that, obviously, being dear friends of mine, but for the purposes of this introduction that’s your key to understanding the basis of a Bubble’s creation. Here are a couple of brilliant things they made:



I know, right? I’m sure you now want to see and hear a lot more from them. Rest assured – you will. Here’s how it works in a nutshell:

  • Dave films something that speaks to him. He shoots a single shot for however long he feels is necessary, then cuts the resulting video to a minute or under.
  • He then shares the video with Alice and myself. Crucially, this is the first time we’ll have ever been aware of this footage or the context in which it was created so that we can proceed unbiased.
  • Alice composes a piece of frustratingly marvellous music, records live as quickly as possible and adds it to the video.
  • Then your humble narrator takes one look at the piece and declares it finished, stating that any contribution he made would only lessen its stupendous value.

…Just kidding.

  • I look at the video and add one final layer of interpretation – a spoken word recording. It could be overwrought narration, a clutch of whispered dialogue or even field recordings of overheard conversations in retirement home cafeterias.
  • All of this is put together, mixed ever so slightly so that one element does not drown out another (any more than intended, at least) and put into a digital box to await its release.

And really, that’s about it. Oh, except that it almost never occurs in that order. Everyone takes turns beginning new bubbles and contributing at different stages to make for ever more interesting interpretations; there’s no single authorial presence pulling the strings, which is exactly how we like it. I have no idea how a bubble I initiated is going to end up, how it’ll be interpreted, if a joke I wrote will be turned into a tragic note or a heartfelt declaration turned into a punchline. That’s really scratching the surface of what happens with the finished products, but I’m sure you get the picture. And this isn’t a project that benefits from over-explanation, anyhow. Which is mainly why I’ve chosen to write this here and not on our shiny new official site – [THOUGHT BUBBLES] is about short, spontaneous creative expression and, above all, not overthinking things. If you’re a long time (or an anytime) reader of this blog, you’ll know how hilarious it is that I’m a part of something like that and how crucial that these two outlets never collide. [Of course, there’s nothing to say I can’t dot a few links here and there.]

I think that’s all I have to say for the moment. Part of the reason I wrote this was to have something to direct people toward when they ask what the project’s about, at least in the early days before the (fingers crossed) vast library of content speaks for itself. The site’s a little austere at the moment, and I get itchy when I think people might be confused about something I’ve done. Another part is that I like to ramble about myself and my talented friends, but you already knew that. Oh, one other thing – we launched the site and the first video on 21st April 2015, which is exactly a year after Dave, Alice and I conceived the project. A lot of things happened in the interim – some good, others not so good – and the effects of those will likely (in some cases, will most definitely) be shown in future bubbles. It’s personal and epic and tiny and heartbreaking and life-affirming and ultra-camp. Mostly, though, [THOUGHT BUBBLES] is indefinable. Stay tuned to find out what the hell that means.

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Awkward Human Interaction #8472

Earlier tonight I was cycling home and had just pulled off the road to check my route when a woman came up to me. She put her hands up and told me she wasn’t going to attack me, I was a man and she was a woman, and that I “could kill” her. So this was already something of an odd conversation.

I don’t recall managing to get a single word out before she gave me the short version of her life story: she had several kids, one of whom was presumably an infant as she urgently needed to buy milk; she had some serious money problems, which was why she had approached me; and one of her children died two weeks ago, which had her feeling “pretty suicidal”. Put simply, she needed someone to cut her a break. So I took out my wallet and gave her all my change – something in the neighbourhood of £3.22.

Instead of offering thanks, she asked if I could buy her anything on card. I don’t necessarily need gratitude for being a decent human, but, well…she was asking two favours in a row from a complete stranger and putting me in a hugely uncomfortable position, so I declined apologetically. I told her I had to get home, which was both true and false; I needed to get home eventually, and I wanted to be home pretty soon (which in London is never as soon as you hope), but was there anything urgent I had to attend to? Nope.

Why was I okay lying to her, after she had poured her life and struggles into my mind? Was it because I automatically suspected her of lying even before she was finished speaking? Probably. I’m not sure at what point I decided that strangers requesting money on the street were automatically untrustworthy, but I know it’s not just me. I’m uncomfortable with that fact, just as I feel guilty when I ignore the existence of homeless people so I don’t have to pretend I don’t have any change to give them.

In the end (the whole interaction lasted about 30 seconds, I reckon), the woman left in a flash, resigned to the knowledge I wasn’t going to help her any more than I already had. When I looked back to see where she was heading, she had already crossed the road and was closing in on another potential Samaritan.

I don’t know if she was lying. I’d like to think she really did need the money, but if all of what she said was true then some loose change likely isn’t going to help her all that much. And I guess I don’t really know how to help people in those situations beyond giving them the contents of my wallet.

If I had just done as the Google Maps lady had said and made that right turn when I was supposed to, I might never have seen that woman in my whole life. Maybe interactions like that – or just the possibility of them – are why I choose to bike to work instead of getting the train most days. Why I wear headphones when walking alone in the street. Why I’m reluctant to answer the phone when I don’t recognise the number.


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